T Bucket Doors That Open: How To Make Them

T Bucket Doors That Open, T-Bucket Roadster Project: Part 25

T Bucket doors that open are introduced n this installment of the ’27 T roadster project. Bob Hamilton starts with the first of a multi-part “how to” covering fabricating T Bucket doors that open in a fiberglass body. This is a very meaty subject that we can only highlight in print. Bob covers opening T Bucket doors in much more detail in the very informative T-Bucket and Model-A Hot Rod Mod’s DVD available at our sister site, StreetRodPlans.com.

Follow along to see how you, too, can fabricate opening T Bucket doors. And at the end of this installment we’ll outline how much more detail is covered in the DVD if you want to ensure your opening doors will be trouble-free.

How to Construct Opening T Bucket Doors in a Fiberglass Body, Part 1

“Not being one to leave things alone, I decided to undertake the ultimate challenge and install T Bucket doors that open in my fiberglass body ’27 T roadster. This is something that I had always wanted to undertake but never had the time to spend working out the details. One of the main things to understand when undertaking something of this magnitude is advance planning. If I don’t think this through, I might wind up with one major mistake that could cost more time and money than I want to invest.”

“Now I know that you can buy a ’27 roadster fiberglass body that has opening doors either already hinged and installed or raw and uninstalled. But I am also pretty cheap. If I can save several hundred dollars and still get the same results for a small investment, then I am all about that. Plus, l am always up for a challenge. With that said, let’s get started. I might add that these same procedures can also be used on 1915-1923 T-Buckets or other fiberglass bodies.”

“There are a couple of things that need to be known about this body. One, it actually was rescued from a dumpster years ago and then sat in or outside a shop for several more years. Two, it was pretty cut up because it was used or slated to be used for a drag car. With this in mind, and after much thought, I decided to take some precautions BEFORE I made some major mistakes.”

“Since I didn’t know what kind of stress this body had been subjected to and knowing that when one removes a section of fiberglass from this type of body (one piece construction), it can and often does go crazy and becomes very distorted. I, therefore, decided to lock down the area to be removed (the T Bucket doors openings) by supporting them with 1 x 2 pine wood strips bonded to the body with fiberglass bondo applied to the area just inside the reveal lines where the door would be cut open. Four pieces were used on each door. The area was roughed up, and 1/2 inch holes drilled in the wood to help hold the wood to the bondo/door. Coat the back of the wood pieces with bondo, slide them into position, and then run a finger or a small radiused bondo spreader along the inside and outside to form a small radius and increase the strength of the bond.”

T Bucket Doors

“After the bondo is set, I placed 2 inch masking tape on the outside of the body next to the door reveal lines and marked where I was going to cut the opening with a magic marker. I left 5/8ths of an inch from the outside of the reveal for the cut line. Then I took my disc cutter with a 1/16th inch wide disc and made a cut on the vertical and horizontal line at the bottom of the door. This is so I can start the cut with my jig saw. (I could have used a sawzall or a disc cutter just as easily). The small radius at the bottom of the door on the corners is marked out with a 1 inch inside diameter flat washer (using the outside diameter for the actual arc) and the cut starts from one of the two slots just made and the round cut is made, 1/2 from one direction and 1/2 from the other.”

“This view shows the door after the cuts were made. I should mention that I cut the bottom of the door first, AFTER the corners were cut, and then cut from the bottom to the top, but not all the way up and across the lip. I did this on both sides. By doing it this way, the top of the door is not flopping around while the other side is being cut. Remember that cutting with a jigsaw creates a lot of vibration, and I didn’t want to take a chance that the loose door would vibrate enough that it would crack the side I was working on. That would just create more problems.”

T Bucket Doors

“This picture shows the cut out door with the wood installed. When I cut the doors out, the door only moved or distorted about 1/16th of an inch. Not bad when you consider how much it might have distorted had I not taken the precautions to keep the door from tweaking.”

T Bucket Doors

“In this picture, I am laying up fiberglass that will be used in building the door jams and tying pieces together. This will all become clear as the story unfolds. Flat pieces are done on the table covered with wax paper so that they are easily removed. The angle pieces (90 degrees) that will be used to form the jams, are made using 2 x 2 inch angle iron, covered with 2 inch masking tape, covered with mold release wax or auto paste wax. On the angled pieces, I lay up three layers of 1 oz. mat. I could go thicker if I wanted, but the way this will come together, I feel it will be strong enough the way it is.”

T Bucket Doors

“This shows my shop foreman DJ and his brother Tivon. DJ is 14 and Tivon is 9. Notice that they are wearing protective clothing, safety glasses, welding respirators, and disposable gloves.”

T Bucket Doors

“I can’t over emphasize that when working with fiberglass and other products that are toxic, safety precautions need to be strictly adhered to. When working with fiberglass, work the resin into the mat by tapping the brush up and down. Do not brush it on like paint or the fibers will move around and cause a big mess. Don’t get too much resin on the mat. It should be translucent and not soggy. If it is soggy to the point that it can run, then when it sets up it will chip off and be brittle or form a weak spot. If you get fiberglass resin on your skin, take a rag with a small amount of lacquer thinner and wipe it over the resin until it is gone, then wash the area with soap and water and finally apply some good hand lotion. Lacquer thinner will take the oil out of the skin and can cause a skin burn or irritation. Protect yourself.”

Fiberglass body T Bucket doors opening

This initial installment on T Bucket doors just scratches the surface compared to the detail that Bob shares in the T-Bucket and Model-A Hot Rod Mod’s DVD. For example, here’s what all that DVD covers just about T Bucket doors:

  • Why it’s important to have a plan before cutting doors out
  • How “body stress” can be a problem when cutting the door out and how to avoid it
  • Two ways to reinforce door and frame before cutting
  • How to install “bear jaw” latches
  • How to use $5 hardware store hinges, rather than paying $50-$120 for special street rod hinges
  • How to build reinforced door jambs that will look great and ensure smooth door operation
  • Which side door you should always start with first
  • How to lay out door outline before cutting and why pre-cuts will help
  • Where your final cuts should be to avoid problems
  • Which edge of the door is best to alignment from
  • How to build up sheets and strips of fiberglass matte and resin to build your own door jambs for a finished look and durability
  • How to plan ahead for easy upholstery panel mounting
  • How to mount fiberglass strips around 90 degree curves
  • Where to center your hinges in the door
  • Where and how to mount the door latch
  • How to modify a striker bolt to lengthen it and give longer life, smooth operation
  • How to easily square a door edge that wasn’t cut perfectly straight
  • How to build door upholstery panel mounting structure
  • Why you should start saving your popsicle sticks
  • How to reinforce the door for hinge mounting
  • How to ensure precise top and bottom hinge alignment for smooth, dependable opening and closing
  • How to tighten door gaps for that real “pro” look
  • How to “bed” the hinges in fiberglass
  • How to tighten or loosen hinge tension
  • How to build door sills
  • Optional ways of further strengthening door jambs, while also providing upholstery panel mounting
  • How to most efficiently and effectively prime the interior door fiberglass work

You’ll be confident doing it yourself when you follow the methodical and practical hot rod building information he shares in the comprehensive StreetRod 101 DVD Library. We’re proud to make these DVDs available through our sister website, StreetRodPlans.com.

StreetRod 101 DVDs

Collect the complete StreetRod 101 DVD Library: available at our sister site, www.StreetRodPlans.com

Click on the image above and you will see for yourself the incredible range of helpful, educational and informative hot rod building “how to’s,” money-saving tips and and frustration-saving detail are included in these terrific DVD sets.

Make sure you don’t miss the next informative installment in this series by clicking this link to Subscribe to TBucketPlans.com RSS Feed.

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John Morehead

Founder at TBucketPlans.com
T-Bucket fanatic since 1957 when my 8 year old eyes became glued to a full page LIFE magazine photo of Norm Grabowski in the wildest hot rod I had ever seen! I later discovered the fascinating T-Buckets of TV Tommy Ivo, Marty Hollmann, Bob Johnston and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s T-Bucket inspired Outlaw. I was hooked for life on T-Bucket hot rods!

TBucketPlans.com originated in 2005 as a personal blog extolling the virtues of T-Buckets. In 2009 I blogged about Chester Greenhalgh, the "how to" genius who wrote the legendary, out-of-print “How to Build a T-Bucket Roadster for Under $3000”. That led to a friendship with Chester and our partnership in marketing the updated eBook version of his T-Bucket building bible. The T-Bucket fire burns stronger and stronger.
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